Explore the relationship between Macbeth and the witches in the play. Explain the influence they have on him.
The Jacobean era refers to the period in English and Scottish history that coincides with the reign of James VI of Scotland 1567–1625, who also inherited the crown of England in 1603 as James I, as Queen Elizabeth had no nephews or children to take the throne. The Jacobean era succeeds the Elizabethan era and precedes the Caroline era, and specifically denotes a style of architecture, visual arts, decorative arts, and literature that is predominant of that period. Shakespeare, wrote many of his more prominent plays during the Jacobean Era, such as, The Tempest in 1610, King Lear in 1603 and Macbeth in 1606. The plays Shakespeare wrote during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, such as A Midsummer Night's Dream, are often seen to embody the generally happy, confident and optimistic mood of the Elizabethans. However, those he wrote during James's reign, such as Macbeth and Hamlet, are darker and more cynical, reflecting the insecurities of the Jacobean period. Macbeth is a tragedy and denotes to a tragic hero. Macbeth was written the year after the Gunpowder Plot of November 1605, high treason was on the mind of every English subject. A small group of angry Catholics, frustrated with ongoing persecution at the hands of the Protestant monarchy, hatched an elaborate plot to destroy King James 1 and his government. However a warning letter surfaced at the last minute and James ordered a search of his Palace. The most notorious conspirator, Guy Fawkes, was discovered in the cellar. These traitors of the realm had some deep connections to Shakespeare and his family. Shakespeare's father, John, undoubtedly a covert Catholic, was friends with William Catesby, the father of the head conspirator, Robert Catesby. John Shakespeare and William Catesby shared illegal Catholic writings that eventually wound up in the attic of John's home in Stratford. Moreover, the Mermaid Tavern in London, frequented by Shakespeare and owned by his closest friend and confident, was a preferred meeting spot of the turncoats as they schemed to obliterate the government.
One of the most prevalent insecurities during the Jacobean era was witchcraft, witchcraft almost completely contradicted Christianity, which at the time was highly prominent. James 1 became interested in witchcraft after he attended the trial of the Berwick witches in 1590 where it was claimed that some of the seventy accused, attempted to sink a ship on which he was travelling. After many confessed to the act under extreme torture, James became obsessed with the idea that witchcraft was a real threat to his reign. He wrote a treatise on witchcraft and demonology based on the Malleus Maleficarum that was used to condemn hundreds of Scottish people to death under allegations of witchcraft and unchristian acts. James also wrote a book, “The Deamomology” where he approves of the practice of witch-hunting and expresses his beliefs about witchcraft. Scotland maintained belief in witches and their ability to make prophecies and affect the outcome of certain events. Christians at this time believed witches to have a strong pact with the devil. This pact gave the witch certain powers for the price of her soul. Witches were thought to make people ill, blight crops and make livestock sicken or become infertile. They had familiar demons in animal forms that carried out their bidding. They could cause storms, sink ship and had supernatural control over the weather.
King James 1 and Shakespeare were said to have a relatively strong relationship, primarily bound by their equal love of literature, it was said that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth specifically for James himself, to satisfy his obsession with witchcraft, and to outline the nobility of Kings and king’s men, In 1598, James 1 wrote Basilicon Doron as a testament to instruct his young son, Prince Henry, in manners, morals and the